Virginia Society for Technology in Education

Board Blog

NEW! Model School Copyright Policy for Using Copyrighted Materials in Digital Media Production

Posted by Michael George on 11/22 at 08:29 PM


The purpose of copyright law is to promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge. The law does this by balancing the rights of both authors (copyright holders) and users.


Under some circumstances, users can use copyrighted works as part of their own creative work. The doctrine of fair use (Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976) states that people can use copyrighted works without payment or permission when the social benefit of the use outweighs the harms to the copyright holder. To make a fair use determination, users consider all the factors involved in the context and situation of their use of the copyrighted material. Fair use is especially helpful when people want to use small amounts of a copyrighted work for socially beneficial purposes, like news reporting, teaching, comment and criticism, research and scholarship. In the context of copyright law, the doctrine of fair use is one of the main guarantees of free expression. News reporters depend on fair use because of its obvious importance in disseminating information. Broadcasting professionals routinely claim fair use when they make use of short clips from popular films, classic TV programs, archival images, and popular songs without payment or permission.

Special Exemptions for Teachers and Librarians.  Copyright law includes provisions that enable educators to use copyrighted material for teaching and learning. Section 110 allows educators to make performances and displays of all types of works in a classroom. Students and teachers can show videos, read plays, project slides or use copyrighted materials in other ways for educational purposes. When materials are used for online distribution, the law allows posting of materials to servers under some conditions. When teachers want to use materials for online learning, they may also rely on the doctrine of fair use or seek permission.


Critical thinking is required to make a fair use determination. Ask yourself two questions:

1.    Transformativeness. Is my use of a copyrighted work transformative? Am I using the material for a different purpose than that of the original? Or am I just repeating the work for the same intent and value as the original?

2.    Amount. Am I using only the amount I need to accomplish my purpose, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and my use of it?

The law empowers users to make a fair use determination for themselves. Thinking about the issue from the perspective of both the copyright holder and your own point of view is important.

Want to know more?

Visit my site:

Or come to my presentation at the 2011 conference:

Temple Univ. Media Education Lab:


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